The Sir Charles Napier, in Spriggs Alley, South Bucks (10 mins j5 or 6 of M40) is a highly renowned Michelin Starred pub restaurant. (see web site). It was gastropub 30 odd years ago, before people knew what gastro pub meant, and it has evolved over the years to be a rather special dining experience. But last weeks Fungi Foray was a bit of a different experience altogether!
We had about 2 hours of collecting. I am originally a botanist (Agricultural) but find this fungi stiff a bit scary. We were glad to have expert eyes to help us identify deadly versus bad taste versus edible. About 10% are poisonous or bad for you, 60% just not nice – either too woody and hard or too peppery, another 10% are just tasteless and disintegrate on cooking, then a final edible section – and some of these are enhanced by cooking, some need to be eaten as salad to preserve their delicate flavour. But look at this basket from a forager who wanted advice:
About 95% of this was put back as unwholesome or dangerous! Then there are others that are bad looking (bright purple, or even black with grey tufts) that are perfectly edible…take an expert with you!
Naturally, we had some of these as our lunch at the restaurant. Yes – mushroom risotto for starters! We all piled into the kitchen for chef to show us how – loads of good tips, and we all managed to see even though there were 30 of us crammed in! (It was second chef – and we found out afterwards it was chefs day off and it was his first time doing the demo. There is no way you would have known – he was excellent and ad libbed and answered questions whilst cooking – a great performance)
This was followed by a stunning pheasant dish- simply served on a quinoa base with puy lentils soaking up the jus and with many other fresh and zingy veg and more – some foraged, I am sure (and a mushroom or two crept in there!).
We were then allowed to pick some of the brilliant mushrooms form the array collected and vouchsafed by our expert. We used them in our slow cooked chicken cacciatore that evening – and most of them stayed together – even the delicate black beasts!
I’m not going to attempt to identify them – you will need to attend one of the forays yourself!